LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
There was little doubt who would have the ball for North Laurel. Katie Reynolds had given South Laurel a 56-55 lead on a free throw with 31 seconds. The final seconds would belong to North Laurel’s Kayla Bruner.
“I would like to say this is a team that could call a time out and do a lot of Xs and Os, but we’re not at that point. Sometimes you just have to let big players make big plays,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
Bruner had already scored 22 points with most coming on layups and one three-pointer. The plan was to let Bruner create and if the defense collapsed she could kick out to a shooter. Instead of driving, Bruner saw an opener three-pointer and took it.
“I think she just did what she needed to do. She felt like she was open and it was a decision she made. It turned out to be a good decision,” South Laurel coach Konnie Snyder said.
Bruner’s bomb gave the Lady Jaguars the 58-56 win and evened the season series with South Laurel. Both teams won on the rival’s home court.
“That’s one of those shots if you make it you’re the hero. If you miss it you could be the goat. I’m impressed she had the courage to take that shot,” Mahan said.
There were times this looked like this was South Laurel’s game with a seven-point lead in the second quarter and an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“We had several chances to go ahead and blow it open and just didn’t take advantage of it, but you know that’s what the North-South game is always like,” Snyder said.
It was North Laurel that opened hot with a 5-0 lead. They were still leading 11-7 when Ashton Bridges scored on an offensive rebound with 3:28 in the first quarter. Off the North Laurel basket, Brittany Vandeventer sprinted down court for a three-point play. A turnaround in the lane by Morgan Madden gave the Lady Cardinals their first lead. Vandeventer scored another quick basket off a North Laurel miss. When Miller pulled up for a three-pointer South Laurel had gone from down four points to up six in less than three minutes.
“We started to put our heads down just a little bit. The old team from a few weeks ago would have allowed that to devastate our entire game,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars were also playing without Bruner, who had picked up a second foul and went to the bench. When Vandeventer nailed a three-pointer from the baseline for a 23-16 lead, it was time to bring back Bruner. But it was a pair of three-pointers from Hannah Gary that helped rally the Lady Jaguars to within 28-24 at the half.
“I was pretty pleased to only be down four because I thought we took South’s best shot,” Mahan said.
Neither team gained much advantage in the third quarter. North Laurel continued the comeback with nine points from Bruner. There were five lead changes in the third quarter with South Laurel getting the last shot. Shelby Davis made a three-pointer as the final second ticked off for a 43-41 lead.
Reynolds opened the fourth quarter with a layup on an assist from Miller. The Lady Jaguars made just 8-of-18 free throws on the night and it looked like it would cost them when they missed the front of two straight bonus situations. Vandeventer scored inside and later added a pair of free throws as the Lady Cardinals pushed ahead 49-41.
As the Lady Jaguars inched closer, it was an eighth grader that came up big. With 2:41, Madison Shepherd connected on a three-pointer from the baseline for a 51-49 score. Shepherd then made four straight free throws to keep the margin at two.
With 56 seconds, a South Laurel turnover gave the Lady Jaguars the ball and a chance to tie. Bruner drove for a layup to even the score 55-55 with 39 seconds.
South Laurel regained the lead when Reynolds made the second of two free throws with 31 seconds. Then it was time for North Laurel to put the ball in Bruner’s hands.
“She is very hard to guard for most teams in this region. When she’s playing like that, it’s almost impossible,” Mahan said. “When she’s finishing at the rim and she’s shooting the three as well as she did, it’s going to be extremely hard to stop her.”
Mahan hopes the dramatic win will give his team the push they need in the final weeks of the season.
“Right now any positive energy for a young team is something you can feed off of,” Mahan said.
North Laurel 58, South Laurel 56
North Laurel 13 11 17 17—58
South Laurel 17 11 12 16—56
NORTH LAUREL (58)—Shepherd 10, Gray 7, Bruner 25, Lawson 3, Raines 5, Bridges 2, Sexton 6.
SOUTH LAUREL (56)—Miller 9, Vandeventer 17, Madden 8, Baker 4, Davis 8, Reynolds 7, Cromer 3.